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Did you know that Wednesday 28 April was World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day? This is a perfect reminder to all workplaces to make sure all your employees are safe at work.
Did you know approximately 2.3 million workers die every year across the globe as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases? In 2020, tragically 65 Victorians died from work related injuries or disease. 29 of those workers died in workplace incidents, with another 20 dying in work-related road accidents. Another 13 workers died from the effects of disease contracted as a result of their work; one worker died following a workplace-related medical incident and one worker died from a workplace-related suicide.
The most dangerous industry in the state was the Public Administration and Safety industry in 2020 with a staggering 12 deaths, which is closely followed by Agriculture, the Forestry and Fishing industry, and also Construction. In 2019, WorkSafe Victoria accepted 27,000 work cover claims for injured workers.
Victorian Parliament passed legislation that created the new criminal offence of workplace manslaughter in Victoria. This legislation came into effect on 1st July 2020. The Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019 is designed to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act) to include this new offence.
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure all employees, as well as the public, are not put at risk. It is a criminal offence that carries severe maximum penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for an individual, or a fine of 100,000 penalty units (approximately $16.5 million) for a body corporate.
The legislation work related death definition has been broadened to now include deaths from work-related transport incidents, disease, criminal acts, and medical or suicide incidents.
Organisations also need to consider:
- Situations where suicide has occurred. Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, confirmed in October 2020 that the offence will not only apply to deaths resulting from physical injuries, but also certain events where a workplace-associated mental injury leads to an employee committing suicide.
- Health related illnesses or disease, causing death, such as silicosis.
- Where a member of the public dies due to the employer’s negligent conduct.
What can you do as an employer?
- Understand the laws and regulations, and demonstrate compliance by showing a commitment to safety.
- Have a safe system of work in place; review your occupational health and safety arrangements and systems, including incident response procedures. Also taking into account both physical and mental health, and safety matters.
- Eliminate and reduce risks to health and safety, and run regular workplace checks to ensure workplace compliance.
- Appoint an OH&S representative or put together an OH&S committee. Put them through the relevant training to ensure they are equipped with the skills to perform the role. Having specialists who are already intimately aware of the businesses’ incident response procedures means that if a serious incident occurs, they are well-equipped to advise and assist in an immediate and informed way.
- Have a set of well drafted workplace policies which are implemented effectively across your business.
- Ensure your systems and practices are up-to-date and aligned with legal requirements and best practice.
- In the event of a serious incident, enable an immediate incident response and have well planned procedures in place for an effective emergency response, as well as creating a process to reduce future risk or injury.
If you’re unsure of where to start or what you need to do specific to your workplace, you can contact WorkSafe Victoria and get a free independent consultation with an OH&S expert. They’ll be able to help you to manage safety in your workplace with a visit and assist you in identifying safety issues, as well as offering solutions to resolve workplace risks.
Remember, Work Health and Safety is everyone’s responsibility and we all need to do our part to make sure that everyone returns home safely from work.
Statistics sourced from WorkSafe Victoria
Bianca Molloy is an innovative, progressive and engaging human resource professional, who prides herself on building solid relationships with her clients and their employees. With her range of industry experience, Bianca’s ability to understand her clients’ business operations and objectives allows her to deliver tailored HR solutions. She is committed to ensuring employees discover their strengths through her passion for seeing people develop and motivating them to become the best they can be.
Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Bianca on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.